I had the great pleasure of visiting Boulder, Colorado for the first time over an extended four-day weekend. As an urban planner, I was able to take away many useful lessons for many communities across the nation, including here in the Great Lakes Region, as well as around the world, from this charming city abutting the Front Range. Granted, not every place can be set aside majestic mountains, but every community does have some manner of unique attribute(s).
Here are what I would quantify as the top ten planning lessons that were taken away from my visit to Boulder, Colorado last weekend.
- Cherish, protect, enhance, and enjoy your natural surroundings, attributes, and amenities.
- Don’t worry, be active! As one of the healthiest and most active cities in the United States, Boulder residents practice this every day.
- Active transportation (walking, hiking, cycling, mass transit) is absolutely key to a vibrant, healthy community.
- Design the city to be human-scaled and pedestrian friendly.
- There is a place for cars, but not at the forefront (both in the city and on college campuses) – the University of Colorado campus is amazingly compact and is only bisected by a few streets.
- Skyscrapers and sprawl are not necessary for a healthy community – sprawl, in particular, is the antithesis of a healthy community.
- Create third places and amenities – downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall (a closed street) is an amazing third place filled with people and constant activity.
- Embrace street art, performers, and vendors – they add life and vibrancy.
- Preserve and protect your community’s architecture and cultural heritage – they’re the only ones you’ve got!
- People will pay the necessary premiums (taxes, fees, rent, cost of living, etc.) to live, work, and play in a well-planned, diverse, eccentric, healthy, innovative, and sustainable community.